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Philadelphia's World Fair: Topics in Chronicling America

In 1876, the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence signing was marked by a grand fair. This guide provides access to materials related to the "Philadelphia World's Fair" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.


"Birds eye view of the grounds." May 18, 1876. The Highland Weekly News (Hillsboro, OH), Image 2. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

The 1876 Centennial Exposition, held in Philadelphia to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, was the first “World’s Fair” to be held in the United States. Nearly 9 million visitors attended the “Great Exhibition,” which featured international pavilions, technological innovations, and American natural resources, which later formed the collections now at the Smithsonian Institution. During the Exhibition, a “Congress of Librarians” met and formed the American Library Association. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.


March 1870A bill to celebrate the centennial of the Declaration of Independence is proposed to Congress.
March 3, 1871Congress passes “An act to provide for celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of American independence by holding an industrial exhibition of arts, manufactures, and products of the soil and mine, in the city of Philadelphia, and State of Pennsylvania, in the year 1876” and also creates the United States Centennial Commission.
May 10, 1876Opening of the Centennial International Exhibition of Industry at the Centennial grounds, by the President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant.
June 30- July 1, 1876Grand Army of the Republic, National Encampment and Parade takes place in Philadelphia; similar parades are held across the country.
July 4, 1876Centennial Fourth of July.
October 4, 1876A conference of librarians is held during the Exhibition, founding the American Library Association.
November 10, 1876The Centennial Exhibition is formally closed.